But the war over the "PC-fication" of the Mac got worse under Spindler's regime, and he soon lost control. Apple brought in Amelio, a respected exec from National Semiconductor who tried to bring in adult supervision such as former IBM exec Ellen Hancock. Amelio authorized Motorola and the IBM-backed Power Computing to make the first Mac clones, a move that was meant to place the Mac crown jewel in hands other than Apple's, as Apple's warfare had hit a point where the company's very viability was in question. At the same time, the efforts to create a replacement OS for the Mac's System 8 were failing, leaving Apple without a long-term platform.
The engineers essentially closed ranks and shut Amelio out, making him and his lieutenants leaders in name only. Amelio then did something surprisingly canny: He turned to Jobs as an adviser, then bought Jobs' NextStep OS as the basis for a new Mac OS. Jobs's public return to Apple in early 1997 caused near-messianic waves of fervor and hope among the user community.
Jobs takes over and undoes the pirate culture he set in motion
Amelio's reward for bringing Jobs back was to lose his job in a coup that Jobs led six months later.
I remember those times vividly, as I was a leading proponent of the clone effort, given my fears that Apple would die and take the Mac with it. I reworked the Macworld Expo program for August 1997 to showcase the major clone makers in the keynote address -- a slot that had been historically reserved for Apple. We made the keynote a two-part affair: Macworld columist David Pogue (now at the New York Times) and I presented the first half of the opening keynote about the clones and gave Apple the second half.
During that spring period of preparation, Jobs had been moving to take over Apple. I didn't know that, but I did know that Jobs would do the Apple presentation at the Expo. And I knew he hated the clone idea passionately -- he had been complaining by phone to Macworld's CEO for much of the spring about it in his very direct way. In the hours before the presentation, all of us were in the same room getting ready to go on stage. Jobs very deliberately stayed at the opposite side of the room as I greeted people, with one IBM exec remarking on that fact and suggesting this was Jobs's way of making his displeasure over my views known.
Before the week was out, Jobs had taken over Apple and sealed a deal with his longtime business foe, Microsoft's then-CEO Bill Gates, for a cash infusion and a commitment to keeping Office on the Mac (that deal quieted the investor fears about Apple's survival while also giving Microsoft some cover for the antitrust issues the Justice Department was then investigating). Jobs also let Macworld's CEO know that my continued presence would cause Apple to damage Macworld's business, so I decamped to Computerworld as its West Coast bureau chief. Jobs also banned Apple employees from communicating with me and one of my key editors, Alliyson Bates.
As you can see, Jobs is an intense competitor.
A year or so later, Jobs released the candy-colored iMacs, which changed the idea that computers had to look like beige appliances. Derided as making computers into toys, the iMac line made computers accessible and human. Jobs had learned from Disney how important it was to have an emotional connection with your customers, and he applied that principle brilliantly to the Mac as part of his resurrection strategy.
People typically believe that Jobs does everything at Apple, but that's not the case. He has had an amazingly strong set of executives, to whom he delegates significant power and responsibility. The two that matter the most are Jonathan Ive, the company's chief designer, and Tim Cook, the man who makes Apple work like a precision machine in its manufacturing, retail, and online spheres. (Cook now succeeds Jobs as CEO at Apple.)